The many uses of gohona
“Why do we women love jewellery?!” I asked, addressing no one in particular.
“Because it is probably the only asset we are given complete control over”, replied someone, addressing me in particular.
That is not quite the response I was expecting. As I reflected back on the self-important trips to the locker and back, tantamount to busy with meetings, I could not help but feel a twinge of defensiveness as I processed her words.
And then, when I thought about bank statements, income tax files, property deeds, and legal papers, I had to forcibly stop the dread and insecurity from seeping into my being. She did hit a nerve, this someone.
For all the talk about women’s empowerment, I was conditioned to expect the men to ‘take care’ of the financial matters and the identity and travel concerns (birth registration, passport applications, and renewals, visas, etc), while home affairs and metal and gems management remained very much in the female domain.
Hurrah for the digital era, I thought, as it is mandatory for applicants and participants to be present for photographs, signatures, and fingerprints, ensuring in the very least that a woman’s visibility is part of the process now.
Back to gohona, is it because we have power over it that, it features as an idiom and a metaphor in so many of our conversations? For example, a woman’s success in marriage is quantitatively gauged by the magnitude of the ornaments she adorns herself with. The sighting of ‘shundor shundor boro boro goyna’ accompanied by stories of the husband’s loving insistences and choices of expensive pieces conjures up images of the perfect couple.
As a friend of mine very perceptively pointed out, statements such as ‘he bought her ten plots of land’ or has put ‘thousands of crores in her fixed deposit’ or ‘bought her shares of a company’ just do not resonate with the same level of hysteria as ‘paach ta polki set,’ despite the jewellery being of miniscule value compared to the jomi, FDR, and dividends.
But then again this is the age of visual culture where gohona can be invoked to create images of both peril and promise. ‘Do remember that any man who puts his wife in jewellery from head to toe, will do anything for her’, is a rather effective woman to woman threat, while ‘they may not be together, but he gave her three trucks full of gold and diamonds as a settlement’, is considered a reassurance of security. There is also the very accurate measure of inheritance with, ‘she got all the boro boro sets, while the others got the tukitaki.’
Gohona can be the ultimate sign of success with ‘I am sure her husband is doing very well, otherwise, how can she afford all the jewellery she wears’, and concurrently the catty revelation of failure, ‘I heard she wears fakes.’
It is the proverbial insult, ‘Tomaar ki aar kono goyna nai?’ or the archetypical sycophancy, ‘only you wear THE best’. It is the subversive gasp, ‘her jewellery was so nice’ to indirectly test the jealous waters. It is the indication of smartness with ‘she always wears jewellery matching her clothes’. It is also the show of superiority with, ‘she can just look at the piece and tell you the quality’, unknowing of the fact that authentication from a gemologist and a laboratory is the marketable certificate, (but who dares bell the cat).
There also exists the train of thought that ornaments are symptomatic of female brain power. ‘Ato chalaak! She has done jadoo to her get so many sets out of him. Or, ‘Gadha ekta! She cannot get him to buy her anything.’
The penultimate betrayal amongst female friends is ‘she didn’t tell me she bought a set,’ while, ‘lookay lookay’ buying goyna is downright treason. And then it becomes about class and background in the mellifluous condescending tone of ‘the wedding was nice, but all the jewellery was too new. Wish they had worn older stuff. Nothing beats the colour of old gold’.
Then there is more, but I am saving that for another article. Meanwhile, I think I have produced a gem of a piece with a gold mine of observations. Hope I have not put anyone in chinta!
Chintamoni grew up in Dhaka, where she will always belong, but never quite fit in. She is an enthusiastic traveller, a compulsive procrastinator, and a contumelious raconteur.